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The Puzzle of Planning Q4

As a 4th quarter company (we do about 50% of our yearly revenue in the last 10 weeks of the year & fondly call this time of year Abundance Season. Formerly Crazy Season. Formerly formerly Busy Season.), September can be… a lot. Like, more overwhelming than being in the thick of Q4 excitement.

Sitting down to plan can feel a lot like the next 4 months are all happening *today* and that the undertaking is too big for any one small business.

If you’re not a small business owner, the best way I can describe this time of year is: the moment you turn out a 1000 piece puzzle onto the table. You know there’s a beautiful image in there somewhere, but my gosh right now it sure resembles CHAOS. some pieces are up, some are down, some are stuck together even though they shouldn’t be, oh baby what have I done?

But then you start flipping the pieces over one by one. You start sorting out the edges and creating piles of like colors and patterns. Maybe find little connections before even officially starting to look for them. Build the frame, then the little house, ignore the swath of solid blue until you’ve gained some context and confidence. Sway between method & luck. Walk away when you wanna push it all off the table. Y'know y'know.

My approach looks like: spend the time building the structures to support the weight of what’s coming, and then allow everything that happens within those structures to be fluid as heck. The structures are things like: adding extra production days, making more marshmallows in a given shift, staffing properly, fine tuning equipment, getting ahead on ingredient & packaging orders, asking my team for feedback on how I can make their jobs easier.

The fluidity looks like accepting that no matter how solid the structures are, we WILL inevitably find weak spots as the season unfolds. It looks like full permission to cancel events, create earlier order cut offs, close our doors to new wholesale clients, shut down the store for a few days when we need to pump the breaks on incoming orders, etc.).

All of this exists to support & preserve this business’s most important through-line: joy!

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